Larry the cat’s status as the top animal in government could soon be under threat with Boris Johnson looking to bring a dog into Downing Street.
The new Prime Minister asked staff in Number 10 yesterday if they would be in favour of bringing in some canine company and the answer was a resounding yes.
Mr Johnson is now considering his options but it is thought he wants to adopt a rescue dog rather than going for a puppy.
However, insiders insist compatibility with the Chief Mouser to the Cabinet Office will be the top selection criteria amid concerns a bad match could lead to animal warfare at the heart of government.
Larry the cat, pictured outside Number 10 yesterday, was brought into Downing Street by David Cameron in 2011 as the Chief Mouser to the Cabinet Office
Boris Johnson, the new Prime Minister, has told staff in Number 10 he wants to get a dog
Larry has been a fixture in Downing Street since 2011 when he was brought in by David Cameron.
He has become an international star because of his predilection for laying down on the Number 10 doorstep and he is a favourite subject for photographers to snap as they wait for arrivals and departures from the iconic building.
Larry’s position as the undisputed king of Downing Street could be challenged by the arrival of a new dog.
One Number 10 insider confirmed that Mr Johnson wants to get a dog but insisted Larry’s feelings will be front and centre when the new pet is chosen.
The insider said: ‘It did come up. He asked staff. It wouldn’t be a puppy. No decision has been taken.
‘It would have to be a dog and cat that got along.’
Larry was previously challenged for Downing Street supremacy by the Foreign Office cat Palmerston who was named after former foreign secretary and two-time PM Viscount Palmerston.
But Larry ultimately won the turf war.
However, he has faced tough questions about his effectiveness as Chief Mouser because of his love for taking naps.
Larry came in for criticism in 2017 when he tracked down a mouse but then proceeded to let the rodent escape (left). He is already under pressure from Palmerston (right), the Foreign Office cat, who has challenged Larry for Downing Street supremacy
Statistics released by the Foreign Office in September 2017 revealed Palmerston had caught at least 27 mice since his arrival in Westminster in April 2016.
The numbers were published after Larry was pictured toying with a mouse outside Number 10 before deciding to let the rodent escape.
Mr Cameron had adopted Larry from Battersea Dogs and Cats Home and expressed his sadness when he resigned as PM in 2016 that he could not take the feline with him.
He said: ‘Sadly, I cannot take Larry with me – he belongs to the house and the staff love him very much, as do I.’
Battersea Dogs and Cats Home has a long history of rehoming dogs and cats to Downing Street and it responded to the news that Mr Johnson wanted a new pet by putting forward a list of potential candidates.
They included Obi, a ‘down on his luck’ mongrel, Popcorn, a ‘young ball of energy’ Lurcher and Barney, a fair-haired seven-year-old Shih Tzu.
Obi, a ‘down on his luck’ mongrel, and Popcorn, a ‘young ball of energy’ Lurcher have both been put forward by Battersea Dogs and Cats Home
Barney, a fair-haired seven-year-old Shih Tzu, and Hank, a ‘young dude’ mongrel who ‘loves to be the centre of attention’, are also in the running
Puppy, a middle-aged Jack Russell Terrier who is a ‘big kid at heart’ is also in the mix
A middle-aged Jack Russell Terrier called Puppy who is a ‘big kid at heart’ and a ‘young dude’ mongrel called Hank who ‘loves to be the centre of attention’ were also put forward.
The home’s relationship with Number 10 goes all the way back to 1920 when David Lloyd George adopted a St Bernard called Riffel.
Riffel came from Switzerland but was quarantined at Battersea’s Hackbridge centre before he was allowed to move into his new home.
Since then the focus has been more feline, with cats having been a fixture of life in Downing Street for years.
Battersea’s Head of Operations, Rob Young, said: ‘Battersea has a great relationship with Downing Street when it comes to re-homing animals to Britain’s most famous street and it goes without saying that we would be more than happy to help our new Prime Minister find a pet.
Lola, a Bichon Frise, lived with George Osborne in Downing Street when he was chancellor
‘If we are asked to help Mr Johnson adopt a new companion, our priority will of course be to look for a dog that is comfortable living in a busy environment and could happily live alongside Chief Mouser Larry, who we re-homed to the political corridors of power almost a decade ago.’
Before the arrival of Larry, Alistair Darling had a black tabby called Sybil at Number 11 when Gordon Brown was PM.
Meanwhile, when Tony Blair moved into Number 10 in 1997 he was greeted by Humphrey, a black and white cat, who had already lived there for eight years.
Downing Street has not been dog-free for long: Philip Hammond had dogs as chancellor – a Welsh terrier called Rex and a dachshund called Oscar.
But he reportedly had to keep them inside his flat to avoid Larry starting a fight with them.
Mr Hammond’s predecessor, George Osborne, also had a dog in Downing Street.
He ended up having to banish his tabby cat Freya because she was bullying his Bichon Frise called Lola.